After leading his team to their first successful defence of the Ashes in England since 2001, Tim Paine must be on cloud nine. His reaction on winning the fourth Ashes Test revealed how much this feat meant to him. As the first wicket-keeper batsman to captain an Australian team to a successful defence of the Ashes in England, he has ensured that his name is remembered in history.
But Paine has to be grateful to one man in particular for achieving this distinction. It is Steve Smith. The prolific Aussie batter has smashed 671 runs in just 5 innings of this series in which he has batted. Without the contribution from Smith, Australia would have been in danger of suffering a defeat in all the three Tests in which he has played.
The Aussie captain knows this and expressed his admiration for his team's main batsmen in very clear terms during the presentation ceremony.
"He's pretty handy, I won't lie. He's the best player I've ever seen. Obviously his 200 was phenomenal but yesterday to push the game forward put England under pressure. He's got a lot of courage to take teams on."
Now just take a second and focus on the second sentence of that statement. "He's the best player I've ever seen." This is a big statement but it gets even bigger when you think about the players that Paine has seen.
Now, he may have meant players that he has seen as a player on the field or all the batsmen whom he has witnessed playing the game since his childhood. But there is one player who is certainly among those that Paine 'has seen' either way. That man is Sachin Tendulkar.
Tim Paine played in the 2010 2-match Test series in India where Sachin scored a double hundred and a near-hundred. So, Paine had a pretty good view of Sachin while he was in prime form. But now, he has declared that Smith is the best batsman he has beheld.
There is bound to be a bias in Paine's assessment being an Australian and that too, the captain of the current team. Add to that the high that he must have been experiencing after winning the fourth Test and regaining the Ashes and you could make some allowance for exaggeration. Still, he has put his neck on the line by saying this and he would constantly be reminded of it. So will be Smith.